The 4 Rules of Regifting: Etiquette Guru Explains When It's OK

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The Label Maker - regifting SeinfeldThe last couple of years have seen a proliferation of made-up shopping holidays, with established standbys like Black Friday and Cyber Monday being joined by the likes of Small Business Saturday and Gift Card Exchange Day. And we can add another to that list: National Regifting Day.

This "celebration" is the brainchild of Regiftable.com, which was started by Money Management International in 2006 to save people from coming out of the holiday season (and into the new year) in debt. According to the site, Regifting Day falls on the third Thursday of December (this year, Dec. 20) -- the day when the most office holiday parties are held (according to MMI's own "unscientific research"). The idea, we suppose, is that regifting is more socially acceptable when the recipient is a coworker rather than a close friend or family member.

But does regifting really pass the etiquette smell test? No less an authority than "Seinfeld" -- the same show that codified the taboo against double-dipping -- condemned the practice in the episode "The Label Maker." And despite MMI's research showing that only 10% of people would feel cheated or angry to receive a regift, we were unsure whether it's truly an acceptable practice during the holidays.

To find out, we spoke to Jodi R.R. Smith of etiquette consultancy Mannersmith. She gave us four basic rules of regifting.

1. The item needs to be new and unopened. "If I get a bottle of perfume, take a sniff, and decide I don't like it, it's no longer eligible for regifting." says Smith.
2. Don't regift just because you didn't like it. "Only give someone a regift if it's something you would have gone to the store and got for the person anyway."
3. The gift should be unwrapped and rewrapped for the new recipient. "I don't want them to find a card addressed to me from my cousin."
4. Avoid a "Seinfeld" scenario. Smith says to avoid situations where worlds could collide -- if the original gifter and the new recipient roll in the same social circles, it's best to avoid the potential headache.

Those last two points might make it seem as though regifting is something that should be executed stealthily, but that's not always the case.

"There are times that I do tell people, 'Someone gave this to me, and when I got it, I immediately thought of you,'" says Smith. "But that's for everyday gifts. If I'm giving it for a birthday or holiday, then I'll keep the fact that it's a regift on the QT."

So if you are planning to celebrate National Regifting Day this holiday season, it's probably best to keep quiet about it.

Do you regift? Ever been on the receiving end of a regift? Share your stories in the comments below or send them to Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com.





Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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28 Comments

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Johnny

I once inadvertently regifted to the original gifter. He said in front of everyone "Hey I gave you this last year!" I was embarrassed.

December 14 2012 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jfmurr3

Why do we feel we have to give gifts anyway. It's not the reason for the season and demonstrates our greediness. Give to a charity in the name of Grace.

December 12 2012 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sunny

I personally don't regift. I have gotten plenty of gifts I have not liked over the years. I donate them all to charity. I would never take a chance that one of my regifted gifts would go back or be seen by the original giver. I am not rolling in money but I don't want to hurt peoples feelings just to save myself a few bucks. Not going to happen.

December 10 2012 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lsukursun

a very good friend and I goty engaged the same year a few months apart.
She had a huge engament party..... I raised to believe that that engagement parties are partiesd asking for gifts and that it was tacky. So my parents did not make me an engamement party.
Plenty of people sent me gifts anyway...... mostly checks and gift cards.
But one gift... an a chrystal ice bucket was give to me by a friend.
I never open gifts in front of people if i can help it because Im afraid that either my face will show it if I dont like it.... or that it will make others feel uncomfortable if they did not give me somethimg as nice or expensive.
anyway... after she left . I opened the gift and there under the gift was a small gift card to her and her fiance. really annoyed me.. especially when I just spent a lot on a gift for her.

December 10 2012 at 9:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dedndogyrs

I have a family member who gives me "thinly veiled contempt" gifts. I am no longer going to exchange presents with this person. I have no idea why this person doesn't like me but I think it has something to do with money, or the lack of it being forthcoming upon request. I feel that parents should be responsible for their children's wants and needs, not peripheral relatives.

December 10 2012 at 8:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Love Shack

Give the gift of weed...no one re-gifts that..they just puff puff pass in the spirit of sharing and love...:-)

December 09 2012 at 9:42 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
________________

I don't regift, I would feel that I was being deciteful. Also I wouldn't have the receipt or necessarily know where it was purchased if someone needed to return it because it didn't work out for them. I would rather keep it for awhile in case someone asked about it (I would not want to hurt the giver's feeling's by telling them I wouldn't use it or didn't like it). After a period of time I would either give it to charity or someone I know that would like it, (just because), not as a regift. Mainly I don't even give gifts, what is the point of exchanging gift cards or money. Most people I know have all the "things" they want or could use. So passing money or gift cards back & fourth is such a tacky waste of time. Also, I absolutely am not going to feel guilty if I don't get a co-worker or casual accquaintance a gift. This goes for hair stylists too. I think a tip is enough & I don't feel obligated to get them a gift or give them money, enough is enough in gifting!! The term "it is the thought that counts" is so tacky or cheap". The thought doesn't count at all if it is an unthought out gift or useless gift, just to say you got them a gift.

December 09 2012 at 8:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ________________'s comment
Jennifer T.

A good solution to having all that tacky regift stuff is to have a "white elephant" party. Think about it. It's a lot of fun and the tackier the gift you bring, the better. It's all in good fun, so nobody gets their feelings hurt.

December 09 2013 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sugarcreekchile

I regift things I've don't care for or have no use for. I give them to people I don't care for but am obligated to buy for that I don't want to spend money on and for gift exchanges at work, etc. I have a place for unwanted gifts and always tag the gift, noting who gave it to me. I don't feel bad about it at all. I never regift to people I care about. If I were to find out that someone regifted something I gave them, it wouldn't bother me. They may already have what I gave them or for some reason it may be something they wouldn't use. At least, I saved them some money they'd spend on gift giving. Absolutely tacky gifts, I just trash---like ones from one relative I have, who I swear and others in the family do too, is addicted to TV infomercials and always gifts dumb stuff she buys from them. For instance, we've all known how to break eggs since we were kids and don't need a stupid gadget to crack them for us.

December 09 2012 at 8:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
meek6

I love a bargain, I'll buy used, if it meet my needs. If someone who knows me, and gives me something that I can use that does not fit their needs, terrific! The best way to become a one percenter is not to spend foolishly in the first place and appreciate the gifted used item. Anyone got an old Rolls, they want to regift? Loved the regifted, regifted massage certificate a few years ago.

December 09 2012 at 7:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
LIBERTYFRAN

Years ago, at Christmas time, I gave our boss (a lawyer) a nice radio clock valued at $30 which I bought from QVC. Few months later, our boss got another job with another company. After our boss left, the office clerk was showing a gift she received for her birthday. It was a radio clock exactly the same as the radio clock I gave our boss for Christmas. I asked the office clerk who gave it to her and she admitted that it was given to her by our boss. I told her that it was a Christmas gift from me to our boss. She was so embarrassed and was giving the radio clock back to me but I told her to keep it.

I never re-gift. If I get gifts that I don't like or will never use or wear, I donate to Salvation Army or charity centers. I don't feel happy giving gifts that were given to me that I don't like.

December 09 2012 at 5:20 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to LIBERTYFRAN's comment